This week’s national conference of local governments has adopted an urgent motion from Tweed Shire Council urging the federal government to abandon plans to scrap rates concessions for pensioners and Seniors Card holders.
Although not quite unanimous, all but one of the 900 delegates to the Australian Local Government Association’s National General Assembly voted to support the motion.
It calls on the federal government to reverse its decision to cease payments under the National Partnership Agreement on concessions for Pensioner Concession Card holders and Seniors Card holders.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland presented the motion to the conference, saying the loss of the payments would have a severe negative impact on local governments.
Some 21 per cent of Tweed Shire Council’s total rates assessments are eligible for pensioner concessions.
The council already finds 45 per cent of the cost of the subsidy out of its own pocket, with 50 per cent coming from the state government from the National Partnership Agreement and five per cent directly from the federal government.
Cr Longland said if there was any reduction of this grant funding, the total Pensioner Concession Subsidy of $1.925 million paid to Tweed Shire Council could be in jeopardy.
State steps in
He added that while the NSW government had given an undertaking to commit an extra $107 million to maintain pensioner and seniors concessions for 2014/2015, averting a major budget shortfall for Tweed Shire Council and other NSW councils, there was no certainty for pensioners and local government beyond the next financial year.
He warned that, ‘should the Partnership Agreement not be renewed, it will be important for the states to review their respective legislation that mandates Pensioner Rebates, to ensure this cut from the federal government is not a cost shifting exercise passed on to local government,’ Cr Longland said.
‘A $1.925 million annual impost to Tweed Shire Council is not sustainable, in an environment where the rate income is capped by rate pegging.
‘If the Pensioner Rebates funding was lost, it could result in a loss of jobs, a loss of services and a deterioration in the condition of publicly owned assets.’